It’s our favorite day of the week! That means it’s time to ramble.
I’ve been working on a WIP for almost a decade.
Well, it’s not as crazy as it seems. I was so enthralled in the fantasy stories I read when I was a kid (The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and so on) that I decided to write an epic fantasy book myself.
I was young. So obviously, I wrote a perfect novel on the first try.
Once upon a time, there was a hero. He was a great hero.
He fought against an evil king. He was a stupid poopy-head.
Now, the writing was pretty bad. Elementary stuff. There was telling galore, scenes that led nowhere, and so many plot holes that extraneous characters fell through them left and right.
But I finished it!
It was the first novel I’d ever completed, and I was just so happy that I did finish the draft that I was content to doodle the front cover art, give it a stupid title, and stuff it in a drawer.
Thing is, I kept thinking about it throughout the next couple of years, and I started making revisions. I saved some characters that fell through the cracks, developed the world-building, and gave the story a bit more purpose.
And then I put it away again. Until I let my little sister read it, and she thought it was actually good.
Thus began a decade-long revision process that still hasn’t ended.
It’s hard to revise stories that are so old and need so much attention. I got tired of it after a while and couldn’t figure out why until I realized my innate love for side characters.
Finally, I realized that my MC (main character) bored me. I had spent so much time with him that I couldn’t stand his goody-goody face anymore. It was good for my story because I started focusing on the side characters more and rounded them out.
I let more and more people read my super old WIP, and one of them mentioned something that thoroughly unsettled me: My MC shouldn’t be the MC. The story was really about his brother.
I could see the sense in that comment. My MC’s brother suffers a lot in the story, and many of the books on writing craft that I’d studied growing up claimed that your protagonist should be the person in the story who suffers most.
My MC’s brother was an active character, had a big personality, and a clear want and need. He was pig-headed and brutish, sure, but he’d also become my favorite character to write while I was focusing on side characters. (It’s fun to live vicariously through your obnoxious characters.)
I was so unsettled by this that I asked my little sister what she thought. Since she’s the one who believed in me from the very beginning, I had to know her opinion. I didn’t want to rewrite my WIP from the brother’s POV, especially since I was starting to miss my MC’s stupid goody-goody face.
The argument that my MC was a passive character, that he was just there, had some merit. But in the end, my sister reminded me of something very important: I needed to write the story I wanted to write.
In the beginning, it had always been my MC as the protagonist, and many of the themes relied on this. It was crazy to think that his brother could be the secret protagonist. Not just because I was afraid to shake things up (I’ve been shaking things up in this particular WIP for going on ten years), but because the story I wanted to tell needed a certain perspective. And my old MC had that perspective.
So, what’s the lesson in all this? Never change your protagonist?
Of course not! Be open to the possibility that you need to rewrite your entire book from scratch. If you keep your mind closed to the hard decisions, your book won’t reach its full potential.
But this experience has opened my eyes and has given me a new appreciation for what I write. No one else can tell me how to tell my story. In the end, if I don’t want to tell it a certain way, that’s my decision, and as soon as I realized that, revising became a lot easier. I was able to take the critique, think on it, and wave it off.
I like my MC. I trust myself and what I’ve written so far.
So let this be a lesson to you, kids: Write what you want. If you don’t like what you write, write it a different way. But never forget what got you started in the first place: confidence. You started writing because you wanted to and because you thought you could. Don’t lose that.
Have a weekend, lovelies, you earned it!